Since February, Rachael Sheridan, a former food-buyer-turned-entrepreneur, has been hosting a weekly cooking club on Instagram. The mission of her @virtualcookingclub is simple: to build community through cooking.
Every Monday, Sheridan posts a recipe from a trusted cookbook author or chef and invites her 2,500 followers to shop, prep and cook from home alongside her.
The recipes range from chef Wes Avila’s albondigas soup to cookbook author Marcella Hazan’s classic pesce all’ acqua pazza, a beautiful and impossible-to-screw-up dish of fish poached in tomatoes, herbs and water that translates to “fish cooked in crazy water.” The one thread that connects all of the recipes is that they work.
“Especially if you’re a busy person, time is such a valuable currency,” said Sheridan, 41, who lives in Atwater, Calif. “Whatever recipe I recommend is not going to waste your time or your money.”
As a working mom — Sheridan is the co-founder of Solstice Canyon almond butters — she couldn’t find time to commit to the in-person cookbook clubs she had been invited to join. She turned to social media, but didn’t relate to the highly stylized images of food or the spotless kitchens she saw on Instagram.
“I don’t like social media making me feel bad about myself,” she said. “You can have a tiny little apartment kitchen and make amazing things out of it. You don’t need the linens, or the dishes, or any of that stuff.”
For Sheridan, the point of Virtual Cooking Club is to share successes and failures, so when she accidentally burned a pan of butter while making ghee, she shared photos along with what she did wrong so that other people could learn from her mistakes.
As the account grows, her followers have started sharing their own hacks and tips. When Sheridan posted about making raspberry jam in her 10-year-old copper pot, one follower offered a suggestion: try cleaning the pot with ketchup.
Sheridan gave it a whirl and posted a photo of the result. “Look how shiny!” she wrote, and thanked the person who suggested it. Her virtual community of cooks appears to be forming.